This week in Matthew 8-10, Jesus heals the sick, calms storms, casts out demons, gives life to the dead, and proclaims the nearness of the Kingdom of God. After rounding up His twelve disciples, Jesus invites His followers, then (and now!) into God’s mission. Everything else comes second to following Him and this path.
Summary 8-9: The Messiah Reaps Harvest!
The Kingdom of Heaven is ever near when Jesus comes down from the mountain, and we see a series of miracles, one after another. A few examples:
- Jesus healing man with leprosy (8:1-4), an outcast.
- A Roman centurion has great faith; Jesus heals his servant (8:5-13)
- Jesus heals Peter’s mother (8:14-17), fulfilling Isaiah 53:4.
- People are amazed (7:28, 8:33, 9:7), including disciples (8:27), still learning who Jesus is!
In Matthew 8:18 crowds grow, but Jesus bails and keeps asking the healed to not go telling everyone about Him, but they’re stoked and spilling the tea! (9:26, 9:30-31) Importantly, a scribe comes to follow Jesus (8:18-22), which is significant because it tells us that at least some of his adversaries—the religious teachers of Israel– are seeing the truth and coming to call Jesus their teacher.
As always, Jesus surprises us—this time, as in the Sermon on the Mount—with His radical challenge and high calling for anyone who would follow Him.
Matt. 8:18-22 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
This road isn’t easy. Everything else in life is second to God’s kingdom & mission: sports, music, fashion, cars, —school, work, and politics—even our friends and family! Ch. 10 likewise promises persecution and being maligned/criticized. We want the world to “like” us, but that’s guaranteed not to always be the case. This is especially true and perhaps difficult in college when we put a high price tag on looking “cool,” but that temptation never really goes away for some. We’re called though to die to ourselves with Jesus in order that we may find true life!
In ch. 9 Jesus calls Matthew (our image of coins this week in our theme poster!) and shocks the Pharisees in so choosing Matthew as a disciple—why? Because Matthew is a tax collector. Why is that controversial? Well it’s true that nobody really liked tax collectors, including Romans themselves, but in this case and among the Jews, tax collectors were often seen as traitors to their own people. Romans often utilized local people from conquered groups to help rule–but under their supervision of course. Not only was Matthew controversial though, but Jesus also display table fellowship with other sinner-types as well (prostitutes and drunkards, for example)—social pariahs of the Jewish community.
Matt. 9:10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Similarly, in 9:14-17 one of John’s disciples asks approaches and asks Jesus why Jesus seems so loosey-goosey: Why don’t Jesus’ disciples fast regularly like John’s and like the Pharisees? Answer: something completely new is happening in Jesus—and yet—He is also perfectly aligned with the role of Israel in God’s plan of salvation, i.e. salvation history. Jesus compares what’s happening to new wine, which has to be put into new wineskins, because as freshly squeezed wine ferments, it expands, and the old wineskins would burst under such pressure. The message: God is doing a very new thing with Jesus; He is the inaugurator of God’s reunion project between heaven and earth, the bearer of the new covenant promised for centuries, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
The word continues to spread (9:26) through Jesus’ miracles. We often (but don’t’ always) see the healings require faith and belief from the one being healed. (9:22, 29) Religious authorities of the day grow more hostile to this new thing God is doing in Jesus, even accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of demons (9:32). That’s a bad, bad sign. Of course by casting out demons and performing all the many, many miracles Matthew shares here, Jesus is demonstrating the power of God and the authority the Father has given Him as His son, the David King and Messiah of Israel—the savior of the entire world.
Then we come to 9:35-38, our key passage this week. It really ties together all this narrative action with the next (i.e. second) discourse in Matthew’s gospel. Let’s read 9:35-38
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Notice a few key components:
- Teaching in the synagogues; Jesus was Jewish and came to fulfill God’s promises to the people of Israel.
- Preaching good news/gospel of the—Kingdom of Heaven v.35 (not the gospel of merely going to heaven—but the gospel of the Reign of God; that’s another episode)
- Compassion: sheep without a shepherd—common OT metaphor (Nu 27:17; 1Ki 22:17, Eze 34:5). The religious elite had been hurting rather than helping the majority of the people of Israel—the everyday, common Jewish people, not to mention the oppression they felt under Roman rule. In Eze 34:11-16, God himself promises Himself to shepherd His people; it is such a beautiful, incredible picture of God:
Ezek. 34:11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
Back in Matt. 9:37 Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, so He tells His disciples to in verse 38 to pray for more laborers! Following this metaphor, harvest can spoil rather quickly, especially in the ancient world, so their is urgency in this mission of God to rescue the lost and restore them to wholeness and peace.
But you won’t believe what happens next! Almost as soon as Jesus tells his disciples to ask God to send more help, He sends them out! They have a role to play in God’s mission! They—these humble fisherman and tax collectors and sinners—are part of the answer, as are you and I.
This reminds me of something I heard once: a guy said he wanted to ask God why God allowed so much suffering on earth. He was afraid to ask God that, though, because He feared God might return to him the same question: why do you allow your neighbors to suffer so much? What have you done to share with those in need? According to Jesus’ teaching in ch.10, the disciples really don’t need more than one coat. In Luke 3:11, Jesus tells the crowds: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” What if the entire world took Jesus seriously?
MODERN APPLICATION: AN INVITATION
Now, the work is ours. Jesus called the first disciples and sent them out to spread the good news about King Jesus and the nearness of God’s reign, in the present, by teaching, healing, baptizing, and showing compassion. We’re called not just to announce the gospel (that’s part of it!) but also to live it out by bearing good fruit and doing good works in our communities. We are literally followers today because this model has, at some extent, been followed: followers of Jesus have been sent out and have made more followers of Jesus. That is the very essence and reason for this campus ministry: to strengthen disciples and make more disciples from all walks of life, all ethnicities, all people groups. We often think of missions as remote, isolated island ministries, but in Paul’s exemplary missionary journeys, he goes to the major cities, the crossroads of the world (e.g. Corinth, Ephesus, Phillipi) where people could hear the gospel and take it back home with them! That is one reason campus ministry is so, so strategic and vital. UH in particular is a tremendous mission field, so I want to invite you into this way of thinking the campus if you’re not already seeing it in those terms.
Here’s why college is the best time in your life to engage in kingdom ministry:
First, for your own soul:
1. Now is always the right time to give your life fully to God. It’s a daily task. I’m inviting you into a renewed and full commitment, right now. God is always ready to receive humble sinners like you and me who long to live according to His ways and in presence. Praise Him for that!
2. You should not expect to get less busy. That’s always an excuse and true: we are busy. But, we prioritize what matters to us most. And as the Sermon on the Mount says, both internal and external fruit matter: we cannot say we love God yet do nothing for the kingdom. We also cannot say we love God and neglect prayer, reading scripture, being part of church, and, perhaps best of all—ministering to those around us, including for you students on campus, other students!You may catch a breather after college, depending on what kind of job you get after college, but if you buy a house, have kids, or just live a life—you are going to stay busy! Sports, politics, working out, playing games, raising kids, etc.—all compete for our time and attention.
Second, here’s why your involvement in the Kingdom matters for the campus:
1. College is a time of transition. Studies show that people are most open to new ideas and big life changes (i.e. committing to following Jesus!) when they’re already experiencing other changes (e.g. going to college, picking a major/career, considering a covenant of marriage with someone you might meet on campus). NOW is an extremely fertile time in life to make new disciples: to labor in the Lord’s fields for harvest. Don’t let the crops spoil: let’s labor together to harvest as much as possible during this special season of students’ lives!
2. UH is a uniquely-suited mission field:
- Densely-populated “city” of youths already making major life choices (49k)
- Lots of international-visa-students, i.e. “end of the earth”—hear the gospel, take it home.
- Even many “local” students here are 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation Americans and so still may have connections and influence in other countries!
Some ideas / ways you can start sharing the Gospel without being a preacher:
- Use your social media for Christ (humbly, lovingly). Share our posts.
- Carry your Bible (and read it). Be willing to look religious; don’t do it just for show, but it may open up the door for a conversation.
- Invite a friend to be in our small group.
- Serve a Impact with us next Tuesday morning, be there by 7:30, done at 10:30.
- Support and promote Coogs for Christ (RSO). Get involved! We’ll need new officers soon. (Shout out and thank-you to our current student officers for working hard to get us registered this year: Dan Angel, Cesis, and Yabez!) They/we could always use more friends to work and play together in this field of the Lord’s harvest.
As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, the laborers few…”
So–what are you waiting for? Shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a DM on IG if you have any questions or ideas about how to get involved! We desperately want every student at UH to know our Father in heaven and the risen Jesus, by the power of the Spirit. You could be part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer. There is no higher calling than that. That is The Point: and life’s a mystery until you get it.